Cycling is big in Cape Town and in the southern peninsula in particular. Why wouldn’t it be? There is the coast road not to mention the mountains, hills, forests and rivers.
Tokai Forest offers challenging mountain biking trails that wind beneath the cool trees with occasional glimpses of False Bay down below. According to Cape Town Travel, all routes start at the Arboretum. Here you can decide whether you want to go for a long pedal or a short one and whether you want to try the single or dual track. The variety of trails means that you can find one to suit you no matter what your fitness or experience level. Be warned that all trails start with an uphill, but that means you end going downhill on the way home. There is a R10 entry fee but if you’re going to make a habit of cycling through the forest you might want to buy an annual permit. MTB Routes warns you to be on the lookout for baboons, horse riders, hikers and dog walkers.
Silvermine Nature Reserve is off Ou Kaapse Weg and offers nature lovers a range of activities, including, of course, mountain biking. The reserve is on a mountain, so expect some tough uphills and exciting (read scary) downhills. You can start in the parking lot or walk up to the dam and start from there. The trail is supposed to be clearly marked, but according to people who ride the route regularly the markers are a bit of a joke. You won’t get lost, however, if you keep going up. Your aim is to reach the top of Noordhoek Peak, which is the highest point in the reserve. From there all your efforts will be rewarded with amazing views of Chapman’s Peak, Kommetjie, Fish Hoek, Elsie’s Peak, False Bay and Simon’s Town.
The route is challenging, so you should be moderately fit before you try it. There is a R15 entrance fee but a Wild Card will get you significant discounts. Once again MTB Routes warns you to keep an eye open for dog walkers and hikers.
If you prefer the feel of tarmac beneath your tyres you can always try some of the hills for which the region is famous.
Chapman’s Peak is probably the most famous road in Cape Town. It’s steep and winding and long and has to be closed during bad weather because it can be dangerous. OK, at 9km it’s not that long, but the continuous climb makes it seem that way, just ask the thousands of Two Oceans runners and Cape Argus cyclists who tackle it every year. You can start on the Hout Bay side or the Noordhoek side, either way the climb is arduous but the views of the Atlantic Ocean are breath-taking (provided you have breath to spare). Fortunately, there are lots of view-points so you can stop and take a legitimate break. As ever, watch out for baboons.
Red Hill runs from Simon’s Town to Scarborough and is exhilarating and challenging in equal measure. You can try the road for a relatively smooth ride or the official mountain bike route, which is, by definition, not smooth. The road is narrow and in certain places the drop-off to the rocks and waves below is heart-stopping. But the view is out of this world.
The mountain bike trail is relatively short and easy, so it’s ideal for beginners or lazy Sunday rides. It starts just north of Simon’s Town and traverses sandy tracks that can be tricky.
There is a longer route that includes Black Hill (Glencairn Express Way and the Lewis Gay Dam.